Fact Sheet about Andes Virus

Andes virus is a type of hantavirus that is found in rodents in South America. People can become ill with Andes virus if they come in contact with infected rodents or their droppings while in South America, or less commonly if they have close contact with a person who is ill with Andes virus infection. Rodents in the United States do not carry Andes virus. Other hantaviruses, such as Sin Nombre virus and Seoul virus, have been reported in rodents in the United States.

What are the symptoms of Andes virus infection?

Early symptoms can look similar to the flu, and may include:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Signs and symptoms of Andes virus infection can appear as early as 4 days or as long as 6 weeks after exposure to Andes virus. However, people are typically only infectious while they have symptoms.

What is Andes Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS)?

Like other hantaviruses, Andes virus infection can lead to a severe, fatal respiratory disease in people, called Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS). Four to 10 days after the initial symptoms begin, the respiratory symptoms of HPS can appear. These include coughing, shortness of breath, and fluid in the lungs. These may develop rapidly, and so it is important to seek healthcare immediately.

How do people get Andes virus infection?

Andes virus is carried by wild rodents that live in South America, primarily Argentina and Chile. People can get Andes virus infection when they are exposed to infected rodents. The rodents that carry Andes virus have not been found in the United States. Rodents that are infected with hantaviruses like Andes virus do not appear ill, so there is no way to tell whether a rodent has the virus.

Andes virus is the only hantavirus known to spread between people. Being in direct contact with an ill patient or their body fluids (such as blood, saliva, urine, or semen), or spending a prolonged period of time (>1 hour) in close proximity to an ill person are ways that a person may become infected.

People may become exposed to Andes virus by:

  • Breathing in the virus. This may happen when rodent urine and droppings containing hantavirus are stirred up into the air.
  • Touching eyes, nose, or mouth after touching infected rodent droppings, urine, or nesting materials that contain the virus.
  • Being bitten by an infected rodent
  • In rare cases, through direct and close contact with an infected person.

How is Andes HPS diagnosed?

Anyone experiencing symptoms of hantavirus infection who have had direct and close contact with South American rodents or their droppings, or close contact with an ill person infected with Andes virus should see their physician immediately.  Infection is diagnosed by testing the patient’s blood to look for the genetic material of Andes virus or for antibodies to Andes virus.

How is Andes HPS treated?

There is no specific treatment, cure, or vaccine for HPS. However, patients can receive supportive care in the hospital to help with Andes virus symptoms.

Those whose infections are recognized early and who get care in an intensive care unit may do better. In intensive care, patients with severe difficulty breathing may be intubated and given oxygen to help them through the period of severe respiratory distress. The earlier the patient is brought in to intensive care, the better.

How can people prevent Andes Virus infection?

People visiting South America should avoid areas that are infested with rodents or where they see signs of rodent infestation (droppings, etc). If possible, disinfect areas that have signs of rodents.  Person-to-person transmission of Andes virus is best prevented by frequent hand-washing, avoiding kissing and sexual intercourse with an ill Andes virus patient, and avoiding sharing a close physical environment for prolonged periods of time with an ill Andes virus patient.